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Wine and Seafood Pile Up as China Virus Ripples Reach Chile

Maria Jose Campano

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Chile has managed to avoid cases of the killer virus that’s disrupting business and industry 12,000 miles away in China. But the South American nation’s food exporters are certainly feeling the effects.

Chinese purchases of Chilean food items have slumped 50% to 60% since the outbreak of coronavirus, according to government export promotion agency, ProChile. Cherries, wine and seafood are among the most affected items. About a third of all Chilean exports go to China.

“We’re trying to mitigate losses by rerouting shipments to other countries in Asia,” ProChile chief Jorge O’Ryan said by telephone from Germany, where he attended a fruit trade fair. “We’ll have to wait the next two or three weeks to evaluate the situation properly.”

The outbreak, which has infected more than 24,000 people and claimed almost 500 lives, prompted the lock-down of 50 million people in a dozen Chinese cities. Countless others are opting to work and eat at home. With distribution channels clogged, flows of basic food items are being prioritized.

Besides the plunge in orders, about 1,400 containers carrying Chilean food and wine are waiting to unload in Chinese ports, O’Ryan said.

Authorities there are accepting 40 to 50 containers a day from Chile, compared with 200 to 350 normally. That bottleneck could lead to losses of perishable goods and trigger a scarcity of refrigerated containers, he said.

Still, Chile’s fruit industry group Fedefruta pointed to efforts to limit distribution disruptions in China and reduce shipping times to minimize the impact of port delays.

(Updates with comment from fruit industry group in last paragraph)

--With assistance from Laura Millan Lombrana.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Jose Campano in Santiago at mcampano@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eduardo Thomson at ethomson1@bloomberg.net, James Attwood, Millie Munshi

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